Academic Paper

Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations is still relevant to UK trade policymaking on international trade

Winters, L. (2023). ADAM SMITH’S WEALTH OF NATIONS IS STILL RELEVANT TO UK TRADE POLICYMAKING ON INTERNATIONAL TRADE. National Institute Economic Review, 1-13. doi:10.1017/nie.2023.19

Published 20 October 2023

This article reviews Adam Smith’s clearly articulated views about the desirability of free trade and his equally strong view on the necessity of sound institutions and ‘the tolerable administration of justice’ as key ingredients of successful economic management. It starts with Smith’s views on free trade and shows how pertinent they are to today’s high-level trade policy challenges. It then considers a more detailed day-to-day instrument of policy—the Trade Remedies Authority (TRA). Following Brexit, the TRA was created as an arms-length body for investigating cases for granting temporary import restrictions to specific products according to a reasonably well-defined objective process. The article demonstrates how, over the first 2 years of its life, the TRA has been reduced from a useful administrative instrument to a fig leaf for a political process for granting protection to petitioners. Unfortunately, this tendency to displace analytical approaches to policy by purely political ones can now be observed in many activities of UK governance.

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L. Alan Winters CB

Centre Director

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